Are there Disciplinary Differences in Writing about Pornography?

By Alan McKee, University of Technology Sydney and Roger Ingham, University of Southampton, UK. In 2016, Professors Alan McKee (a humanities researcher) and Roger Ingham (a psychology researcher) submitted to the Australian Research Council a successful grant application for a project entitled ‘Pornography’s effects on audiences: explaining contradictory research data’ (DP170100808). We were approached by Feona Attwood, who knew of the grant and asked if we could provide a piece for this special issue that explored ‘writing about porn across disciplines’. The process of writing the grant application had already provided us with plenty of rich data about differences in disciplinary vocabularies and the ways in which various words implied different objects of study and different relationships to objects of study. Rather than trying to hide these differences we decided to make them the focus of the article. This piece presents three voices – Alan (AM), Roger (RI) and the original grant application (GA) – in trialogue, as a tentative beginning to the exploration of some potential differences between academic disciplines in conceptualising, researching and writing about pornography.

Industry Self-Censorship and the Birth of the ‘Alternative Adult’ Market

By David Church, Northern Arizona University, US. Prosecutions of theatre owners for obscenity increased after the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Miller v. California decision returned responsibility for obscenity definitions to the judgment of local community standards, meaning that ‘smaller hard-core theatres suffered through a lack of product and a suddenly more discerning hard-core audience.’ [1] One of the major implications of this legal precedent was a deliberate toning down of ostensibly aberrant or ‘taboo’ content in many post-1973 hardcore films. […] In the theatrical pornographic feature, illicit acts seldom appeared to begin with, but even a handful of 35mm genre ‘classics’- such as The Story of Joanna (1975), Femmes de Sade (1976), Barbara Broadcast (1977), Pretty Peaches (1978), Candy Stripers (1978), and 800 Fantasy Lane (1979) - suffered trims of select scenes when later appearing on video.

Book Review – Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity

Review of Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity by John Mercer. I. B. Tauris. 2017. Review by Brandon Arroyo, Concordia University, Canada. The title of John Mercer’s book certainly intends to make an impression. With an assertive, commanding, and all-encompassing title like Gay Pornography, one eagerly wonders if this might be the contemporary sequel to Thomas Waugh’s foundational Hard to Imagine (1996). However, Mercer’s aims are far more modest - yet no less essential - than Waugh’s. I bring this up to suggest that the over-reaching title ultimately overshadows the sensible and focused line of thought maintained throughout. A more accurate title might have been: Gay Pornography’s Keywords, because of its success in articulating a vocabulary describing the role of gay pornographic culture within masculinist society. This is the book’s primary contribution: to provide readers with a unifying discursive framework through which to understand gay pornography’s contemporary mediascape. Mercer’s keywords are the linguistic tools essential to producing dynamic pornographic studies in the future.

Book Review – Beyond Speech: Pornography and Analytic Feminist Philosophy

review by Martin Fradley, University of Brighton. In their introduction to Beyond Speech, Hilkje Charlotte Hänel and Mari Mikkola state that this new collection of essays has two core aims: firstly, to take stock of extant feminist debates on pornography and, secondly, to ‘examine some newer lines of inquiry and investigate what they can tell us about still-unsettled conceptual and political questions’ (11). The ‘speech’ of the book’s title refers to Catherine MacKinnon’s (1987) famous legal argument that pornography should be understood as a series of violent ‘speech acts’, which ultimately serve to silence, subordinate and harm all women. Tellingly, the writers here almost all begin with the premise that pornography can be ‘harmful’, and Beyond Speech contains a dozen original essays that subsequently defend, challenge and re-evaluate some of the most important feminist interventions in what was once (rather quaintly) referred to as ‘the pornography debate’.

Susie Bright, Good Vibrations and the Politics of Sexual Representation

by Lynn Comella, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US. Susie Bright was not yet the nationally known author and trailblazer Susie Sexpert when she walked through the doors of Good Vibrations for the first time in 1980. She was 22 years old and lived around the corner from the store at Twentieth and Valencia Streets. Bright remembers that initial visit vividly. Honey Lee Cottrell, who would later become Bright’s lover and collaborator, was working behind the counter. Cottrell, a butch lesbian with prematurely greying hair, was opening envelopes that contained a single quarter – the amount that the store’s founder, Joani Blank, was charging at the time for an itemised list of vibrators that doubled as the company’s mail-order catalogue. Bright watched curiously as Cottrell opened the envelopes and stacked the quarters, one on top of the other, next to the cash register. ‘Why don’t you just put them in the register?’ she finally asked. ‘We don’t know how to record it’, Cottrell replied. ‘It’s not a sale and no one can figure out what it is, so we just pile them up on the side and Joani says she will deal with it later’.